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Muscular Problems in the Low Back

Muscle strains, sprains and pulls can cause low back pain. When the soft tissues in our lower back are damaged, including the ligaments, tendons and muscles that help hold us upright and support our upper body every day, it can be very painful. 

Muscle strains and pulls can happen from repetitive movements in work or exercise or from lifting a heavy object incorrectly. 

What are common types of low back muscle injuries?

Spraining or straining your back are two common muscular back injury. These injuries can happen acutely (suddenly) or slowly over time. Strains often occur from twisting or pulling a muscle or tendon in your back. A sprain usually happens as a result from a fall or sudden twist, or a trauma that forces a joint out of its normal position. 

Back sprains and strains are often easily treated, especially if you treat the injury soon after it occurs. A “wait and see” approach can lead to additional injury that takes longer heal. Most of the time, you can treat a sprain or strain at home. 

Generally, you can return to normal activities within one to two days after the injury. Be sure not to over-do it, but also keep in mind that too much rest can prolong your symptoms. 

What are symptoms of muscle injuries or problems in the low back?

Symptoms of muscle strains and sprains in the lower back are generally similar and include:

  • A pop at the time of injury
  • Dull, achy pain
  • Intensified pain with movement
  • Localized lower back pain
  • Muscle spasms or cramps
  • Relief when resting
  • Stiffness or difficulty walking
  • Tenderness or inflammation

How are muscle injuries in the low back treated?

Generally, muscle injuries can be treated at home with self-care. Rest, ice and pressure during the first 24 - 48 hours can help alleviate pain and reduce swelling. You may also want to use an over-the-counter, non-steroid anti-inflammatory, such as ibuprofen. 

If symptoms persist or are severe enough to interfere with daily activities, contact a spine specialist. A specialist can create a treatment plan tailored to your activity level, goals and symptoms.

Treatment can range from rest at home or physical therapy exercises. It is important to work with a spine-oriented physical therapist who is trained in neck and back exercises. Therapy can often shorten recovery time and get you back to your daily activities as quick as possible.